Southwest Virginia -

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by perennial, Feb 7, 2005.

  1. perennial

    perennial Well-Known Member

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    Well we have been narrowing down where we want to move and we seriously considering Southwest Virginia.

    Any particular counties that are especially nice? If you were going to move there and raise a family, where would you do it?

    Are any areas 1/2 hour or so out of Radford nice? Hubby is an Elec. Engineer so may end up commuting to a small city or some sort or he is actually looking at other alternatives for a job - anybody do the cable splicing for verizon?

    We finally nailed down our budget here and how much we can save so we can buy land. Hubby also figured out what we will need to make for $$ when we move so now i feel like we are getting somewhere with our plan.

    Are there a lot of regulations with having to have a second kitchen if you want to make baked goods to sell? Are there alot of taxes there?

    Where is the land really fertile with good views and not developments everywhere. Also all the usual needs, atleast 20 acres, unrestricted, elec. available, good for wells, etc. - schools might be important or i may homeschool.

    Is Patrick County as beautiful as it looks in pictures? I've mostly been looking at Floyd County and Galax.

    Being pretty close to parkway or good roads would be good for hubby.

    Is it better to get the piece of land and put a small house on it or buy land with an existing house - anyone gone either route. How is it getting contracters, etc. to do work there or are there any modular home builders anyone can recommend that would deliver to that part of virginia.

    Any other areas/small cities we might look at for employment ideas? If you live in Virginia and work in carolinas whose income tax do you pay?

    Any help, ideas or info would be greatly appreciated.

    Feel free to post or PM me.

    Thanks, brural
     
  2. seanpecor

    seanpecor Member

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    We moved from Orwell, VT to Blacksburg, VA in June 2004. Blacksburg, being home to Virginia Tech, does still have open land available inside and outside town limits but prices are significantly elevated when compared to surrounding towns. Still, land here is a good investment, resources are spectacular and the land you pay $7,000 an acre here appreciates at a rate of 6%-10% annually so if you can swing it, then consider Blacksburg. Great job opportunities all around, especially in engineering. For example, Blacksburg's resident population is only 12,000 or so, not counting the 28,000 student population. At Virginia Tech's Corporate Research Centre's technology park, over 110 employers employ 1,800 people in the engineering, I.T and biotech fields. Big companies in the area include Corning, Echostar, Moog and many others.

    Montgomery County is, economically speaking, the strongest county in SW Virginia. Arguably the best school system in SW Virginia. It's one of the only two counties in SW Virginia that matches the economic and population growth of NE Virginia. The other is Bottetourt County, mostly due to the Smith Mountain Lake area and tourism. Definitely look closely at Montgomery County (http://www.montva.com) first. If your husband found work in Blacksburg, the road infrastructure in and out of Blacksburg is top-notch, so commuting to and from surrounding towns isn't time consuming.

    Radford is part of what the federal gov't calls the Blacksburg/Christiansburg/Radford metro area. Christiansburg's north eastern edge near to Blacksburg is evolving into the retail heart of the region. This is eating up alot of the good level land in that central area, but there is still good country left that is insulated from this development if you do your research. This is because directly north of Radford, Christiansburg and Blacksburg especially you have the Jefferson National Forest and steep but gorgeous valleys that stop sprawl dead. Christiansburg will offer the lowest cost per acre in this region, and you'll be 10 minutes from all of the town conveniences.

    Building permits are required but there are no formal building inspections done as far as I know. A second kitchen wouldn't require a special permit beyond the building permit, but operating a business such as you describe would require that you get a special use permit to comply with the zoning ordinance of the town or county. It's a pretty easy thing to get. I have one for my home-office based business (I'm an entrepreneurial internet developer). Governor Warner is now pushing home-based businesses for SW Virginians as a way for the region to improve it's vitality, so there may be grants or very low interest SBA loans coming down the pipe very shortly. I'm a Vermonter, and Vermonters get nailed on property taxes. So I was shocked at how low Virginia property taxes were. However, unlike Vermont, personal property is taxed in Virginia (cars, boats, non-ag vehicles), as are groceries, and other essentials.

    Hmm. A good resource for Virginia agribusiness research is:

    http://www.vafb.com/cnty_map.htm

    Schools you should definitely do your research on. Avoid a county with under-performing schools. If economic realities force you to give up on home schooling then you shouldn't need to worry about how good your public school system is. Sadly, many SW Virginia counties do not have stellar public school systems. However, this is true of any rural region. And there are exceptions, which is why researching your alternatives is so very important.

    Patrick and Floyd Counties are nice! A greater potential for longer commutes in general though. But you sort of expect that in rural counties :) You'll find great beauty in all counties of the region, though!

    Raw land is not ideal if you've got limited equity and have limited income potential at least in the short term. First, raw land is harder to finance. Lenders will typically want a minimum of 35% down. Next, raw land is in demand. Even in Patrick and Floyd Counties, you're looking at $4,000 an acre at an absolute minimum for tracts in the 18-30 acre range. Next, modular homes are harder to finance at 30 years, and the money you save up-front is lost (and then some) because they don't appreciate in value as quickly as stick built homes and you often get stuck with a higher interest rate. I've owned modular before so I can attest to this with at least some personal anecdotal experience. I'm not sure what labor costs are around here, but I suspect that you'd be looking to start at $75/sq ft not including site preperation for new home construction. So, a 20 acre tract purchased and a 1,250 square foot home in Patrick county newly built might cost roundabout $200,000 when all is said and done. For that amount, you could likely buy a larger existing home on 20 acres, or get a smaller home with 30 or more acres in certain rural areas. I'm biased though. I happen to think it's just better to buy an existing rural home with open land than to create a new one. I know this is called the homesteading forum, but the pioneer days are over, mostly, and new homes consume valuable resources.

    In general I think your money will go much further if you can find a modest home that needs a little work but has good pasture and land. This is all about marketing. People with deep pockets aren't as interested in that sort of home and prices for that sort of "product" isn't pressured up by that demographic. Developers don't want it either if it's not REALLY close to where the jobs are. Look at that type of property and trust me you'll find some gems. Here is a good resource:

    http://www.nrvar.org/

    You'll be able to search Patrick, Floyd counties and points north up to Giles County with that handy real estate site.

    Blacksburg (http://www.blacksburg.gov), Christiansburg, Radford, Roanoke, Salem, Bedford. Basically all along the I-81 corridor. I know you're leaning in the direction of Floyd and Patrick Counties, but you should visit Blacksburg and take a look at the employment opportunities here. Then, drive the surrounding country, down Rt 785 through Catawba Valley into Catawba and then Salem, and then take 311 up to Craig County, and then Route 42 west to Rt 460 west up into Giles County and into Newport, Pembroke and Pearisburg. This region down through to Radford is called the New River Valley area and it will really tug your heart strings!

    Hope this helps!

    Sean.
     

  3. mamalisa

    mamalisa Well-Known Member

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    Depends on what you want....

    I live in Franklin County. The schools are fine, never mind the reports, my kids do well and are challenged, and I'll take the kids attitudes of respect in my rural county over ANYTHING in Blacksburg or Mont. County.

    I'm an hour from Roanoke, down a good road, and an hour and a half from Greensboro, nc.

    Land is affordable. Floyd County is sky-high, as is Blacksburg and Montgomery County, and the taxes here are much nicer.

    I bought a small farm....12 acres or so, good house, well, septic, block 20x60 building and a bunch of falling down sheds.....for under $140k. I have wonderful neighbors, the extension agents are great, and the weather is better down here. It is a good 10-15 degrees colder on any given day up in Blacksburg. Brr....

    Blacksburg has built up over 40% since I moved to VA 20 years ago. I don't think I would want to be part of it, but that's up to you.
     
  4. Karen

    Karen Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I'm also in SW Virginia in Wythe County. I love SW Virginia and, also as a transplant, have been very happy here! The schools are not so hot, but if homeschooling is an option, you will be very happy with the fairly liberal homeschooling laws and the fact that the system leaves you alone.

    Anything around Radford/Christianburg/Blacksburg is kind of busy and expensive. There is of course, anything you want in the way of stores and conveniences, but like anywhere else that you have conveniences, you pay for it. Also, being a high profile college/medical town, I find it getting rather "up-ity". Construction is going nuts there, they've added highways recently, and new big expensive subdivisions going in, etc. Land prices around there have doubled just in the 3 years we've been here. It really has become rather than a community unto itself, it has also become the place for executives wanting to get out Roanoke, and is becoming a commuting point for Roanokers.

    Floyd county is absolutely beautiful but terribly expensive!! Anything around the parkway is; as is anything around good paying jobs.

    Remember also that anything within a commute of Roanoke is generally going to be expensive and taxes higher.

    With regards to selling baked goods. It's kind of a funny thing around here. Unless your selling to tourists, you might find that difficult because you may not find a big market locally. People here really are very down home and still cook and bake just like grandma and mama did. Women still sew, quilt and can. Many spin and weave down there in Galax and Floyd. Even women who work cook supper most nights and bake on the weekends. Working women even come home and can at night during harvest time and everyone, and I mean everyone, has a garden. No one here knows what "homesteading" is. They just know it as every day life! One of the nice things we like about it here. :)

    The most economical and quiet life in SW Virginia is if your willing to drive 45 min. to a hour to work. Then sky is the limit on inexpensive land/homes/low taxes/and possiblities -- because there is a ton of it if you take the time to look. Most of the really beautiful places at the best prices are by owner. You just have to take a drive or ask around. You won't believe what you will find!
     
  5. perennial

    perennial Well-Known Member

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    Seanpecor and mamalisa

    Thanks for all that effort! That's a lot of info to check into and we really appreciate it. A commute for a job is very important for hubby and how long it is. We want to live rural, and not in a place that is building like crazy, but be within a commutable distance.

    We currently live in a city with 41,000 within 15 sq. miles and there are houses going up everywhere - it's defintely not for us. A 1/2 acre of land goes for 250,000 - 300,000.00 here and that's not on the ocean! It's too expensive to live here so we are anxious to save and leave.

    Hubby has to get a job because of benefits, etc. He may have questions after he checks out the info you sent.

    Hubby was curious why you moved to virginia from vermont?

    Mamalisa,

    Anywhere you would look for a easier commute to one of the cities? What a bargain you got!
     
  6. mamalisa

    mamalisa Well-Known Member

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    The thing is, it isn't a bargain for around here....and if you buy land in big chunks, this far or a wee bit further out, it is not expensive.

    I don't think the commute is bad. It's a straight shot out to Roanoke down 220....4 lane good road the whole way. Especially if only one of you has to work. When I lived closer in, it took me almost as long to get to work anyway, so I don't mind.

    I have to agree with Karen. The thing I like best is the attitudes here. Everyone just does this stuff--people think I'm a little old-fashioned, but that is all. Franklin County is mainly rural. All of the kids work, and very few have tons of stuff, so my kids fit right in. Nobody thinks twice if a kid has a penknife in school, they just tell the kid to put it away.....most of them were using it for chores and just forgot to leave it home.
     
  7. jack_c-ville

    jack_c-ville Well-Known Member

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    I'm in central VA myself, but I'm a big fan of Franklin county. If I recall correctly, Franklin county is the last county in the Commonwealth that does not have a mandated building code. I've been considering buying some land down there for that reason alone, although we'll be staying around Albemarle county as our primary home because of family.

    I'll warn you that jobs are hard to come by in many parts of Southside. The textile mills have been closing right and left for the last 15 years and a lot of towns are in pretty bad shape economically. We heard a lot of big promises about money for retraining workers and getting economic help after being screwed over by NAFTA but we've gotten *zero* from Washington and Richmond has only started paying attention to the problem in the last couple of years.

    -Jack
     
  8. perennial

    perennial Well-Known Member

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    Karen,

    everything you said is what we are looking for - people think i'm nuts for baking everything from scratch here - I'm hoping to learn canning this year and made my first jam this year.

    We just need to live where hubby can commute to a traditional job until
    we start our own business eventually.
     
  9. seanpecor

    seanpecor Member

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    Vermont is on the northern edge of the Appalachian mountain range, and Virginia is on the southern edge. We love rural Vermont, yet the long winters began to drag on us. Most winter recreational activities (ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, skiiing) aren't our cup of tea. So since I can work virtually anywhere, we conducted a job search online for my wife, who is a Dressage trainer, instructor and teacher (old multimedia resume can be seen on http://www.equine-partners.com/resume/nancy.html). We considered several leads, but ultimately chose a job in the Blacksburg area after doing our online research and making visits to the area.

    As for Mamalisa's comment about B'burg being cold.... If you're raised up north, then Blacksburg will NOT be cold :) For me, cold means week after week of sub-zero lows, and single digit high temps, with wind that would eat the skin off your face if you weren't properly dressed for outdoor work. Here, it rarely reaches a low of 10F and when it does do it overnight, it quickly warms up 30 to 40F. I've shoveled snow only once so far this winter. In a t-shirt. And, even better, it stays in the 80-86F high temp range during much of the summer, rarely hitting 90F. In fact, it hits 90F more often in Vermont than it does in Blacksburg. That's a good thing for me, because I don't care for hot and humid when I'm working out of doors.

    I could never stomach commuting 45 or more minutes in one direction. Two hours in the car every day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year. That is 500 hours in a car from January to December. That would be 500 hours not spending time with my family, not moving my body. Let's have some fun with math. If it costs you $0.20 per mile to keep your car properly maintained (gas, repairs, safe tires), and you commute 90 miles a day, then that's $375 a month. Let's assume for this exercise that you opted for that house deep into the country, so that you could stay within a budget of $150,000. For that money, you get a modest home with an outbuilding or two on 20 acres. You get a 30 year 5.75% fixed rate mortgage on $142,500 after putting 5% down. Your monthly payments are $831.59. Now, you're spending $375 a month on average for just one person commuting 90 miles round trip. The total mortgage and commuting expense is now $1,206/month. Now, for the next exercise, let's assume you instead chose to live within 15 minutes of that big town/small city, and paid a higher premium for a more in-demand home with 20 acres of open land. Using our $1206/month mortgage and commuting expense in the previous exercise, let's take $1,100 of that and move it solely to your mortgage expense. That would give you a $195,000 budget to find a similar property. You'd be putting $9,750 down on a $195,000 house, and the same interest rate would put you at a $1,081/month mortgage expense. If your round trip commute distance was now 25 miles daily, instead of 90, then you'd be spending roundabout $105/month keeping your car on the road, for a total mortgage and commute expense of $1,186/month. Yes, the expense would be roundabout the same even though you're paying $45,000 more for the same property. And there are additional positive lifestyle and financial benefits as well. The commuter would get to spend over an hour more each day with their family. For me I consider that priceless. Also, there are tax benefits. Unlike the money you dump into your car, every single penny you pay in mortgage interest becomes an itemized deduction on your tax return. For the $185,250 example mortgage, you're looking at a $10,000 deduction. To get a sense of how that would affect a worker's take home pay, divide your mortgage interest paid for a tax year and divide it by $3,000. Then add that number (rounded down) and those are the number of additional allowances you can declare in order to ensure you don't over withhold. So, if you normally would declare 2 allowances (1 for yourself, 1 for head of household) then you can now declare 5 allowances. That's a big deal!

    Please, do NOT get the idea that I'm knocking Franklin County, or Floyd or Patrick and so on. Every county in this region is a gem. I'm just trying to answer the question I believe you are asking, and that question seems to be, where can we live a rural lifestyle insulated from an urban or suburban environment where the commute to better paying jobs is not too hard on our growing family. If I thought you were asking, what are the most beautiful, pristine, and peaceful places in SW Virginia that are most removed from urban life, with no regard to white collar job availability, then I would give a different answer. And, if you were looking strictly at the fertility of land, I'd give a different answer too. According to my father in-law, who owns an 800 acre farm in Vermont, and has run farms in many areas of the east coast, and taught farming through the Peace Corps in Phillipines and in other parts of the world, the most fertile land in Virginia is in the Shenandoah Valley, or Rockingham County. His mouth waters when he talks about the soil in that valley :) Of course, if you think Montgomery County is expensive, then start shopping for land in Rockingham County ;)

    Karen and Mamalisa are right, it would be tough selling to rural folks who are a bunch more self sufficient, by choice or necessity. You could do well by delivering your baked goods to local markets in larger towns. I only know Blacksburg, but I'm sure other towns/cities in the area are quite similar. In Blacksburg there are several whole or natural food stores, locally owned grocery markets, thriving farmer's markets, and so on. Just a thought.

    I also want to help dispel the notion that the Blacksburg area is growing into a big metro area that is increasingly incompatible with a rural homesteading lifestyle. First, within Blacksburg town limits, there are about 4,000 acres taken up by residential development. Yet there are still about 4,000 acres of agricultural land. Even so, I'm not suggesting you purchase a 20 acre homestead inside the town limits. I'm suggesting you consider the area surrounding Blacksburg, either the part of Blacksburg in the jurisdiction of Montgomery County, or just beyond, which is largely rural and very well insulated from ongoing development. In SW Virginia you'll never see anything like Richmond, or Norfolk. It's topographically impossible :)

    Since I can't speak for other larger town's pros and cons with any real personal experience, I won't, but I'm hopeful we'll hear from still others in this forum so we can all learn something about this wonderful part of the country.

    Sean.
     
  10. perennial

    perennial Well-Known Member

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    Wow!

    We plan on not having a mortgage because we will be selling here and saving more to add to that. We plan on having a house that is atleast equiv to what we have. We want no mortgage at all. Hubby plans on making enough to pay everyday expenses. I agree with family time value - where we live no one is ever home because everyone is too busy paying for their big houses and everything is so scheduled because of that. I am fortunate to be at home full time and we would like to keep it that way when we move.

    I hope others share their thoughts, hubby will be able to read them all later.


    Thanks so much for taking your personal time to answer.

    brural
     
  11. mamalisa

    mamalisa Well-Known Member

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    Maybe it is just that I've seen Bburg go from a really neat town to something populated by yuppies in McMansions who don't like the smell of manure.....and I grew up in a semi-rural area that turned into a suburb that turned into it's own city. Having seen Pittsburgh, I will not state that the Bburg-radford-cburg area can't do the same thing. I've really seen the area change, and the land values skyrocket. Plus they have some of the most annoying building codes going.

    45 minutes is NOT bad for affordable land. Some of us can't make the 200k mortgage, but we can squeak by driving....and if the mortgage payments are lower, then your chances of self-sufficiency are higher. And don't forget the property taxes....I pay $700 yearly. In the nearest county, that would be tripled. Plus any land you buy near town has the more immediate chance of scrutiny from the neighbors and building people. It's pretty discouraging to have your rural area get built up just as you are getting settled.
     
  12. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    i beleive if they keep going there wont be any land left here all the farmers around here are selling there building 300 houses at a time and i see tax keep going up we will be gone at the end of the summer the farm will be paid off as will the house were building ar. here we come
     
  13. perennial

    perennial Well-Known Member

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    mtman,

    What counties are still "untouched" what about land near the blueridge parkway?
     
  14. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    if that is over in the shenendoar mts. wow i know that isnt spelled correct any way its beautiful there some places might be a little steep in price we sold a large home here in va. beach to buy a smaller one all part of downsizeing they built all big homes down the atreet our prop. went up 80,000 in 2 years
     
  15. coalroadcabin

    coalroadcabin Well-Known Member

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    we live in the shenandoah valley. husband commutes 45 min to c'ville everyday (has done this for the past 24 years) even with the wear and tear on the car and the price of gas it is still more cost effective to live here - real estate prices are lower, taxes are lower plus it's just downright beautiful here in the valley. so my vote is for living somewhere rural and commuting to your job if necessary.

    mtman,
    where are you in va? there are lots of 'subdivision's' going up on farm land here but there are still some great pieces of land left. we bought 10 acres of land ajoining the nat'l forest for $29,500.00 in 2000-current tax assessment (with no improvements done yet) is $42,500.00 so real estate prices are going way up-guess that's why the farmers are selling out to the land developers. :(
     
  16. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    we are in va. beach and its crazy here
     
  17. seanpecor

    seanpecor Member

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    This trend will continue, especially very close to Blacksburg. Even though I'm a successful maverick internet entrepreneur (read: geek) working out of a home office, I'm in contact with lots of I.T. and business folks in the Blacksburg area. The town is in the very early stages of an economic boom that will be felt by all surrounding counties for decades to come. There are certain areas here (northeast county and into northwest roanoke county, southern giles, southwestern craig) that will have phenomonal open land available for decades to come. But the heart of the town of Blacksburg will continue to become the upper middle class haunt for all of the white collar folks who are marching into Blacksburg in droves. How quickly is this happening? Home prices are increasing at over 10% a year. The average in-town price for a house is $235,000 now compared to about $205,000 for the same period last year. Lending institutions can really contribute to this snowball effect that locks up lower income folks. See, for new development, they want 2/3rds of the value to be in the house and only 1/3rd in the land or they won't want to finance. So, if the value of in-town land is now $80,000 an acre, at an absolute minimum you're looking at new homes costing $240,000. So, it's not the developers' fault, completely. They have to create a product that people will be able to buy.

    If you can qualify as an agricultural operation then many codes are waived, and there are on fees for permitting farm accessory buildings. Franklin County has a 0.52/$100 nominal real estate tax rate while Montgomery has a 0.67/$100 rate. So you'd pay about $900 a year in Montgomery instead of $700. Still, it's nothing like Vermont. In Vermont, the lowest tax rate is 1.17/$100, and the highest is about 2.90/$100! In both Vermont and Virginia, though, there are some steep tax breaks for agricultural and forest land use discounts. In Blacksburg outside of town limits, I'm seeing land use assessed values for agriculture and timber land at around $400/acre, even though it can sell as high as $6,000 an acre on the market.

    I agree! My family lived on my in-laws' farm for 7 years in Vermont. It was 800 acres of paradise in the Champlain Valley:

    http://extranet.digitalspinner.com:8080/pics/backyard.jpg

    It was there I learned that after growing up in Vermont's "big city" of Burlington, that I was really better suited for country living. We moved to a 4BR home on 0.29 acres in northeastern Blacksburg in June 2004. The theory being that it would be nice to be 4 minutes from the ranch that my wife manages, and 5 minutes from school, and 3-10 minutes from everything we need for day to day living. We have great neighbors, lots of tech professors and so on, lots of convenient resources for our kids. But it just doesn't suit us. So when we began looking for a house with land in the country a few months ago, that was within or close to Blacksburg's town limits, we found our dream property. Over 120 acres with 1,600' of frontage on Catawba Road, about 9 miles down Catawba Valley from Main Street. The north fork roanoke river, still a creek at only 3 or 4 river miles, runs right through the property, dividing about 40 acres of level fenced open pasture land. An 800 square foot workshop, a 55x36 hay and animal barn, a steel and timber bridge over the river up to the house, and about 75 acres of timber mountain land, going straight back to the top of Paris Mountain. We hope to start moving in by the end of this month. It's still a bit surreal. I've worked hard on my web development business since I started it in 1997, when I was really nothing more than a high school dropout living in a one bedroom apartment I could barely afford. We're really excited about the future, and I take stewardship of the land pretty seriously. Who knows, there is lots of untouched mountain and pasture around us, I may just buy it all up over the next 5 years and stop sprawl dead for good down this stretch of valley.
     
  18. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    thats what i mean if your going to get in better do in a hurry and im no stranger to commuting im just glad its all done
     
  19. coalroadcabin

    coalroadcabin Well-Known Member

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    yep, that whole area is nuts!! i don't blame you for moving out. i wouldn't last more than a week there. (though, i do like going down for a vacation now and then!! :) )
     
  20. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    funny we live here and vacation in ar. 2 more vacations next one in march then july then the big move we cant waite realy tighten our belts to make this happen